Once through the door however, the scene was from an Arabian Nights dream. Hundreds of brightly coloured dresses, skirts, shawls, adorned with beads and tassels, embroidered jackets , feathered hats, slippers, masks and canes, all costumes down through the ages, ready to transport the wearer into a previous magical era. The owner, Mr. Ichabod Olman, himself dressed as a Cavalier in an embroidered wide sleeved shirt and knee breeches, long black hair tied back in a ponytail, was unpacking several dresses and bonnets, just back from the cleaners, when the doorbell tinkled and in burst five young men, singing and shouting, obviously having had far too much to drink.
Ichabod sighed. “Yes, gentlemen, what can I do for you?”
The tall, blond haired youth leading the group announced “We, sir, are having a party. Loads of food, friends and fun, so we need fancy dress. What can you offer?”
“Do you have a particular era in mind, sir?” “Mmm- Jane Austin, I think. What do you say, chaps? Something to give the ladies a little encouragement – slip off the shoulders, and all that?” They all giggled.
“How many, sir? Assuming equal numbers of both sexes will be attending?”
“Oh, about fifty, I should think. Can you deliver? The party’s tonight, from eight – the Manor House, Rollingford.”
“That’s not a problem, sir. Do you wish me to include for the family?”
“No way! That’s why we’re having the party – they’re all abroad for the holiday. No holds barred, if you know what I mean,” he winked and added: “Plus the odd ghost or two, of course. Nothing like a ghost to cause a bit of excitement, what?” Ichabod smiled. “Not a problem, sir. I’ll make a fair selection and your order will be delivered at 6 pm. One special ghost included, of course.”
As they all left the shop, Ichabod pressed a button. “Reuben, can you hear me?” A distant voice answered. “Of course, dear boy. Heard everything. Just the ticket. I shall be there at seven. Anything in particular you would like me to do? You know my repertoire.”
“I’ll leave it in your capable hands, as usual. Some plate throwing would be good, just to cause a diversion. I think you know what I mean.”
Early the following morning, just as Ichabod was unlocking the door, Reuben whisked past him, his arms full of boxes. “Icky, will you look what I’ve got here? Last evening went down a storm, had a fantastic time and a wonderful surprise. Eleanor was there. She took up residence six months ago, after Alfred was elevated to a higher plane.”
Sensing trouble, Ichabod pressed another button. The shop window turned, reversing into a dusty, cobwebby display selling ancient maps.
“Eleanor? You mean your Eleanor?” “Yes, yes, my beloved girl. We did the poltergeist course together, remember? Just like old times and she really lent a hand, especially when I told her what we were doing.”
Ichabod looked suspicious. “What exactly were you doing? I hope you were sticking to the rules.”
“Well – sort of. We began with the usual noises, just to get them worked up, then we started throwing the plates around, but they hadn’t provided many, so we got a bit carried away and threw the Sevres dinner service. The really funny bit was when I did my head-under-the-arm appearance, only my head wouldn’t screw back on until Eleanor found the WD-40. We couldn’t stop laughing.”
“I thought I could rely on you, that’s why I gave you…” Ichabod began, angrily. “I know, I know. Those guys are in for one major headache when they wake up. But look in the boxes.” Reuben removed the lids. “See what we found!” Ichabod gasped. “All of this was in the safe? You cracked it?”
“No need to. Eleanor knew the combination. She watched the old boy counting his ill-gotten gains every night. He had no idea she was there. There’s twenty thou. in cash, but the real snip is the collection of early Egyptian grave jewellery. His lordship definitely won’t report this loss, far too dangerous – and of course you do know the right people, Icky.” “In that case, I think we’ll drift off on a holiday. Oh, and bring Eleanor. I think she’s earned it.”
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